How to discipline your ADHD child



Children with ‘Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’ find it particularly difficult to contain their own behaviour, forget to behave, forget that there will be consequences involved if they don’t behave, and lack impulse control. These children struggle daily to remember the boundaries, adhere to the boundaries, and to keep their impulse control in check. For the ‘Attention deficit hyperactivity disordered child’, there is simply way too much going on in their brain.

Imagine not having the ability to think before you act, not having the capacity to concentrate, and being so impulsive that you forget you are not to hit other children. This is the life of an ADHD child. Unfortunately, these children are more likely to get twice as much trouble as their siblings or peers.

Children with ADHD need extremely understanding parents, or otherwise, they run the risk of being disciplined too much.

The ADHD child’s vulnerability

The ‘Attention deficit hyperactivity disordered’ child has a major vulnerability. Having ADHD is like standing in amongst a crowded room in a fleuro suit. These children are so impulsive, hyperactive, and defiant, that they are at risk of being over – disciplined by their parents, teachers, and other adults in positions of authority.

Therefore, they are also vulnerable to harsh discipline techniques, more discipline than other children, and shameful thoughts about self, because they are in trouble often.

The problem with ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,’  as a neurological condition, is that the condition itself tests the patience of the child’s caregivers, and teachers. ADHD takes its toll on the child’s parents, because this condition is unrelenting – and is described by paediatrician’s as having an immature brain. This is a child who requires the utmost patience from their parents, teachers, other children and siblings.

Therefore, these children are vulnerable to harsh discipline techniques, more discipline than other children, and deep – seated inner shame, and turmoil.

The importance of not over-disciplining the ADHD child

I am very careful not to over discipline my son – because in time, with treatment, his brain will mature.

The last thing a parent with an ADHD child wants is to do, is to make the situation worse, which is easily done if the ADHD child is over – disciplined.

Corporal punishment is not going to stop this child from acting out. If this is the method of punishment being used to tame the ADHD child, than the child will most likely become angry, resent the parents’ and rebel instead. Rebelling with a serious neurological condition such as ADHD could have a very negative impact on the child and their family.

Too much discipline can also create a sense of mistrust from the child towards their parent, if the child senses early on that their parent cannot tolerate them. If a child feels as though their parents are committed to understanding them, and supporting them with their condition, they will want to please their caregiver, and will continue to work on their ADHD symptoms.

Children with ADHD need the utmost understanding

ADHD children need to know that their parents’ understand the nature of their neurological condition, and can be trusted to work with them in over – coming the issues associated with the condition, instead of exacerbating the problem.

To hit an ADHD child for out of control impulsive behaviour is saying to the child ‘I do not have the patience for your inability.’

The ADHD child’s intention is not to be naughty or difficult. Most children want to please. Just like these children, ADHD children try very hard to control their own brain.

Punitive style discipline

Parents who use corporal punishment or punitive style discipline techniques in the hope of a quick fix, run the risk of igniting their child’s sense of shame, or accidentally perpetuating their child’s poor impulse control, by unknowingly encouraging them to act out on their poor behaviours. Children with ADHD find it very difficult not to be reactive.

Punitive style discipline doesn’t work with any child. However, because a child with ‘Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’ is often given double the discipline compared to other children, they may just give up, and start to believe that they are unworthy, and no good. This is when the child may stop trying. If this happens, their behaviour may become out of control.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy for ADHD children can improve behavioural problems. In a therapeutic setting, the parent and child work together to learn how to interact with one another differently in order to resolve the child’s behaviour.

The two programmes, (PCIT) Parent child interactive therapy, and the (PPP) Positive parenting programme encourages parents to praise their child, to use positive reinforcement frequently, and to put in place consistent consequences. Life is much easier for both the child and the parent, if the child is completely aware of the boundaries.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is designed to break the continuous cycle of emotion – thought – than a behaviour. This is the ADHD child’s continuous cycle, and becomes embedded in the child’s psyche. If this cycle isn’t dealt with in childhood, this same cycle could become problematic in teenage years, and young adult – hood.

How does cognitive behavioural therapy work?

  • Cognitive activity impacts the person’s behaviour
  • cognitive activity can be looked at by the person and changed over time
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy is a very successful form of therapy which can result in behavioural changes

Discipline techniques for ADHD children

Time out:

Time out for children with ADHD can help them to calm down, and to restore themselves.

Pick your battles:

Try not to discipline too much; otherwise your child will begin to feel as though they can not do anything right, which is when they may just give up.

Don’t change the rules:

Children with ADHD need to have consistent rules. They need to know exactly how they are, and how they are not allowed to behave. Inconsistent rules and boundaries will result in the child becoming defiant and difficult.

Discuss the behaviour with your child:

Sometimes ADHD children need some advice from their parents on how best to work on their behaviour. Short discussions, as well as consequences can be very effective with these children.


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